Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts — Plus Their Role in Digestion

You may have experienced the after-effects of eating Brussels sprouts and how they cause gas. This results from their high fiber, fructan and sulfur content. But you shouldn't give up these mini cabbage-like vegetables because Brussels sprouts provide many healthy nutrients.

Eating brussels sprouts can cause gas.
Credit: AimeeLeeStudios/iStock/GettyImages

Nutrition in Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are low in calories and carbohydrates and contain only a minimal amount of fat. The protein in Brussels sprouts amounts to 4 percent of your daily value. According to the USDA, per half a cup or 78 grams, cooked Brussels sprouts contain:

  • Calories: 28
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams

Brussels sprouts supply many important nutrients in each half-cup serving. Some of the major contributors to your daily value (DV), according to the USDA, include:

  • Vitamin A: 20 percent DV
  • Vitamin K: 91 percent DV
  • Vitamin C: 54 percent DV
  • Folate: 12 percent DV
  • Magnesium: 4 percent DV
  • Manganese: 8 percent DV
  • Copper: 7 percent DV
  • Iron: 5 percent DV
  • Potassium: 5 percent DV

In addition, Brussels sprouts contain smaller amounts of vitamins E and B, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B5 and B6, as well as calcium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

Read more: 10 Weird Signs You're Not Getting Enough Nutrients

Brussels Sprouts Can Help Digestion

Because of the high content of fiber in Brussels sprouts, adding this vegetable to your diet can help keep your digestive system functioning properly. Fiber is the part of food your body can't digest. It remains intact, absorbing water and feeding your gut microbiome while adding bulk to your digested food. By softening your stool, it can pass smoothly through your digestive system, which helps prevent constipation.

The fiber in Brussels sprouts also helps to reduce the incidence of hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis and other gastrointestinal disorders. Additionally, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published in October 2015, dietary fiber may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

If you are not used to a high-fiber diet and you eat a lot of Brussels sprouts, diarrhea, gas and stomach cramps may result. Beginning a high-fiber diet should be done gradually. Drink plenty of fluids when your dietary fiber is increased.

Can Brussels Sprouts Cause Gas?

Malabsorption and intolerance to certain carbohydrates are common problems frequently causing digestive disorders. Brussels sprouts contain fructan, a naturally occurring carbohydrate found in many foods. Symptoms of a sensitivity to fructan are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and include gas, abdominal bloating, flatulence, stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea.

If you have an intolerance, it may be because you do not have enough of the essential enzyme to break down fructan-containing foods, such as Brussels sprouts. As a result, the food is fermented in the large bowel. A Current Gastroenterology Reports study, published in January 2014, lists Brussels sprouts as one of the fructan vegetables that is most likely to give you gas.

Being a cruciferous vegetable, Brussels sprouts contain a sulfur-containing phytochemical called glucosinolate. It is this compound that is responsible for the bitter flavor and distinctive odor of Brussels sprouts.

Unfortunately, it's the glucosinolate in Brussels sprouts that is also responsible for the foul-smelling gas that eating these little cabbages can cause. Certain bacteria in the colon make tiny amounts of sulfide gases and these gases have a distinct odor when passed by your body.

Health Benefits of Vitamin K

Brussels sprouts are a rich source of vitamin K, with a half-cup serving contributing almost your entire daily value. Vitamin K is best known for its roles in blood clotting and maintaining bones and is found throughout your body — in your liver, heart, brain, pancreas and skeleton.

A study in the journal Open Heart, published in October 2015, reports that vitamin K can help with the prevention and treatment of hardening of the arteries, heart disease and cancer and improve bone strength to reduce the risk of fractures. In addition, the study cited a 3-year controlled trial of 355 patients and concluded that vitamin K may improve insulin sensitivity in men with diabetes.

Antioxidants in Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts boast an impressive antioxidant content, including a flavonoid compound called kaempferol. As an antioxidant, kaempferol has been shown to have a potential beneficial effect as a chemopreventive agent. In addition, kaempferol may have antitumor properties that could reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer when combined with other flavonoids, according to Natural Healthcare Canada.

A study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, published in June 2013, identified the inhibitory capacity of kaempferol for human-derived enzymes. The conclusion of the study suggested that kaempferol has the potential for clinical application in both tumor prevention and therapy.

Read more: High Antioxidant Fruits & Vegetables

Health Benefits of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is vital for your immune system and Brussels sprouts are an excellent source. Acting as an antioxidant, vitamin C neutralizes damaging free radicals in your body to protect you from sickness and diseases. The vitamin C in Brussels sprouts is also needed for collagen production to help your wounds heal. And it improves the absorption of iron, which is needed for the production of healthy blood cells.

In its role of collagen synthesis, vitamin C may be helpful for treating fractures and reducing oxidative stress after an injury, as demonstrated in a systematic review published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine in October 2018.

The review above found evidence that vitamin C may accelerate healing after musculoskeletal injury specific to bone, tendon and ligaments. However, further studies are needed before vitamin C can be implemented as a valid treatment after an injury.

Brussels Sprouts Role in Cancer

A study in the February 2015 publication Current Pharmacology Reports reported that cruciferous vegetables have chemical components of sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol that display anti-inflammatory effects. Cruciferous foods, such as Brussels sprouts, may also play a role in the detoxification of certain carcinogenic enzymes.

Researchers suggested that consuming Brussels sprouts and many other cruciferous vegetables significantly decreases the incidence of death from cancer. Evidence from the article found that consuming a diet rich in Brussels sprouts may lower the risks of developing cancer.

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